I have been a little bummed lately with blogging topics in general. I really want to keep a good balance of travel, food, wine, and the occasional fitness post, but working full time and not being able to travel as much as I would like sure gets in the way. I thought that I had run out travel posts to write when I realized that I take for granted a lot of the places that I go on a regular basis. Travel doesn’t always require a passport or an overnight flight; worthy destinations are everywhere! A couple of hours in a car or on a bus can make for a drastic change in scenery. . . and in state of mind. One destination that I hold near and dear to my heart is Western Massachusetts where I spent four years living while I attended the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Amherst is in the Pioneer Valley, also referred to as the Happy Valley, and the students who go to UMASS, Amherst College, Smith College, Hampshire College, and Mt. Holyoke, among others, are lucky to live there!
Driving West from Boston, you can easily reach Amherst in under 2 hours. If you feel like taking back roads, you can get off the Mass Pike at Palmer and take in some beautiful, rural scenery which is really lovely year round. There is so much to do in the Amherst area for foodies and outdoors enthusiasts alike.
Go just a few miles beyond the town center of Amherst on Rte 116 past Hampshire College to visit Atkins Farms, a year round indoor farm stand with a tantalizing bakery, homemade ice cream, and fresh local produce and milk. They have the best cider donuts I have ever had.
Get sandwiches to go from Atkins’ deli, and drive up the road just a few minutes more to the Holyoke Range State Park. Here you will find a visitors’ center and several marked hiking trails that vary in length and difficulty. Climb to the top of Mt. Norwottuck for an amazing view of the valley and a good place to have a picnic lunch. This hike is about an hour and forty-five minutes round trip and provides some good uphill walking.
When you are done with your hike, head back into Amherst center for a coffee at one of the adorable cafes. The Black Sheep is one of my favorites both for their cream cheese brownies and their sandwiches which are always fresh and offer interesting combinations. It is also close to the town common where there are often festivals and there is a farmer’s market in the summer months.
The Black Sheep is also close to Bueno y Sano, only one of the best taco places ever.
If you are in the mood for a more formal meal, head to Judie’s, an Amherst favorite and THE place to go when the parents are visiting It is always crowded because everything is delicious, especially their homemade popovers stuffed with a variety of salads. The portions are huge, but if you can bring the leftovers home, they make quite the next day treat.
For something more casual or a fresh brewed beer after your meal, head to Amherst Brewing Company, right across the street from Judie’s. They offer a variety of beers on draught, and they are all good. The food is great too, especially the fried pickles!!
Amherst is a small town, but there is a lot to see and to eat. If you have the time, the UMASS campus is a nice place to visit, and the Quabbin Reservoir is only about 20 minutes away, back toward Boston. The Quabbin is absolutely gorgeous and has an interesting history. Also in the area, the funky and fun town of Northampton, the Norwottuck Rail Trail for biking and running, and historic Deerfield.
If you live in or are visiting Boston and are looking for a fun day or weekend trip, there are many more fun things to discover in the Western part of the state. I haven’t even been to the Berkshires yet (but will be going for a wedding in the summer!). There is more to Massachusetts than just the beautiful East coast!
Do you have fun day/weekend trips close to home that you like to take? I would love to have some guest posts on traveling close to home!